University of Wisconsin men’s hockey coach Tony Granato seemed optimistic about his team’s weekend performance and excited for the week ahead of the Badgers as he addressed the media Monday.

The Badgers are coming off a 1-1 weekend as they split games with the No. 6 Golden Gophers. Both games featured slow starts for Wisconsin followed by steady improvement as the games progressed.

“Both of the games were the slowest starts we’ve had,” Granato said.

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The Badgers’ head coach went on to cite respect, among other things, as potential reasons for the slow starts. Respect was also the word the ex-New York Ranger used to describe his fourth line and the intensity of competition in each practice.

He accredited a lot of the team’s success over the weekend and throughout the season to the fourth line and the constantly evolving Matt Ustaski.

Granato was impressed with the development and maturity of Ustaski, a junior forward from Glenview, Illinois. Ustaski is a big part of the fourth line even as his coach hinted toward his potential to climb higher in the rotation in the future.

Wisconsin now turns its attention toward No. 8 Ohio State University with a series against a strong Buckeyes team up next. The matchup locations are split, with one in Columbus Thursday and the second at historic Madison Square Garden in New York Saturday.

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“There is still room for improvement as we move along,” Granato said. “I think we can do better against [OSU].”

Madison Square Garden was also a popular topic as it is the location where Granato scored his first National Hockey League goal as a player.

“I loved playing in the Garden, loved it,” Granato said. “It will be very special to our group.”

The chance to play at not only an NHL arena but also one of the most storied venues in the country is an exciting concept for the Badgers, as well as a nostalgic experience for the man at the helm, who spent two years with the Rangers during his NHL career.

The entire team must build off the success and momentum they have acquired in recent games with two tough games this week away from home.

It could be a golden opportunity to further improve on a solid season to date as highly ranked OSU awaits them for two games this week.